After six years of failure in trying to register its Roundup Ready soybeans in Brazil, Monsanto has decided to try a different tack: It's seeking compensation from grain companies shipping the genetically enhanced, illegally grown soybeans.

Government officials estimate that from 8 percent to 22 percent of Brazil's recently-harvested soybean crop was planted in Roundup Ready soybeans. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, they say, up to 70 percent of the 2002/03 crop could have been Roundup Ready.

Black market

Most of the seed for those crops was sold on the black market or saved from previous harvests, meaning Monsanto received no return from Brazilian farmers on the billions of dollars it spent developing the technology. But the St. Louis-based company plans to change that situation.

“Starting with this year's harvest in Brazil, we intend to implement a program that will allow us to obtain fair value for the use of our technology in the future in Brazil and be fair to Brazilian growers who want to use our technology,” says Carl Casale, vice president for Monsanto's North American Agricultural Business.

“Our plan will allow the export of Roundup Ready soybeans from Brazil by those who choose to execute an agreement acknowledging our intellectual property rights; the terms of the agreement will provide fair compensation to Monsanto for the use of its technology.”

Worst-kept secret

Speaking at a Senate hearing in Washington, Casale said the planting of Roundup Ready soybeans in Brazil has been one of the worst kept secrets in the world oilseed markets.

“As you are aware, our technology is being used illegally in Brazil and, as a result, Brazilian growers are enjoying the advantages of the technology without paying for it. U.S. growers are rightly concerned about this, and I can assure you that we at Monsanto are working hard to address this problem.